The following takes place 24 hours after The Setup.
Doctor Erma Kitt had worked at Belle Reve Penitentiary for 15 years. She was a Psychologist by trade and a good one at that, she had a very specific specialization, she was quite adept when it came to interviewing and analysing supervillains. It was a dangerous profession, though this was obvious given that it involved dangerous people. For 15 years she’d worked in what was rightly considered Hell on Earth, and after all her work and all her labours she’d been offered the chance to go somewhere worse.
Obviously, she’d accepted the offer immediately.
Erma had only been working at the Devil’s Peak for a few months, but she already loved it. Most of the people she’d interviewed at Belle Reve had been your typical criminal scum, costumed buffoons who may have initially seemed interesting but once you’d met one of them, you’d met all of them. Every now and then she’d get to meet someone interesting, Amanda Waller’s Sucide Squad had been a particular high point of her career. However, most of the time she was stuck listening to the same old sob story that she’d already heard a thousand times that week.
Not at Devil’s Peak.
Devil’s Peak was a new facility designed for people worse than the criminals at Belle Reve and considering Belle Reve’s inhabitants were often called “the worst of the worst” that was saying something. The Prison Facility was located upon a mountain ridge in the Arctic, with temperatures reaching -91C. Erma and the rest of the prison’s staff lived at the facility, trading shifts every few months with other staff members considered experienced enough to be stationed there.
The only way to access Devil’s Peak was by Helicopter. Anyone else would wind up freezing in a matter of minutes.
Erma’s room was nothing special. She hadn’t bothered to bring many personal belongings, just the essential equipment that she needed for her work. It was this essential equipment she was looking at now, making sure that everything was in order and prepped. She checked her recording equipment and found it was in perfect shape. She checked her notes, they were all up to date. She checked herself… good enough.
Normally she preferred a more relaxed demeanour when working, but today was special. Today was a Tuesday, and she liked who she interviewed on a Tuesday. Ready to go she picked up her case and went to work, locking her door behind her as she went.
Devil’s Peak had many, many hallways. All of them brightly lit in a dull, yellow light. Every hallway had a security guard positioned down it, every hallway had a modified security camera waiting down it loaded with darts capable of delivering a neurotoxin capable of shutting down the strongest nervous system on the planet. Erma ignored all of this; it hadn’t impressed her on the first day either. She’d seen enough prison breaks at Belle Reve to know that some things were simply inevitable, and it wasn’t like there was any neurotoxin capable of stopping the men and women being kept in this facility. That was what the self-destruct was for.
‘Good morning, Mrs Kitt.’ Burton, one of the facility’s many security guards was standing outside one of the prison’s interview rooms.
‘Morning, Burton.’ Erma said giving him a polite nod as she approached. ‘Have you got my coffee ready for me?’
‘Decaf, ma’am.’ The guard said, smiling under his helmet. ‘Same as usual.’
‘What would I do without you?’ She asked, moving towards the door. Before she could pull it, open Burton’s hand shot out and gripped her by the wrist in a surprising but gentle fashion.
‘He’s in there waiting for you, ma’am.’ Burton said, his smile fading as his face turned deadly serious. ‘I know you know the drill. Just be careful. We’ve got eyes on you in there and I’ll be out here. If you need help just holler, okay?’
Erma did know the drill. She’d grown used to Burton’s nerves when it came to this subject. Normally the guard was brave and brash around even the most powerful inmates that were kept in this facility, but when it came to the man that Erma was here to see there was no time for jokes, no time for anything but focused determination.
She nodded to Burton like she always did. Then she stepped inside.
Patient interviews at Devil’s Peak were a rare thing. Given the nature of the prison many of its inmates were not permitted to leave their cells, so Erma had to cherish every chance she had. The interview room wasn’t very different from the ones that Erma had worked in all throughout her life. It was a white, sterile room. In its centre was a metal table fixed into the ground and two chairs sat across from each other. One of those chairs was currently filled.
‘Evening, Erma.’ Said the subject. ‘How’s the family?’
Erma smiled as she took her seat across from one of the most infamous killers of the 21st century.
‘It’s morning, Slade.’ She said, placing her notes upon the table. ‘And like I keep telling you… I’ll know by next week.’
Slade Wilson smirked from across the table. The giant metal cuffs that were binding his hands were fitted and locked into the table he was sat at, though this didn’t make him seem any less dangerous. The man was largely naked, a requirement given the level of danger he presented. Save for the cuffs on his arms, a pair of briefs around his waist and the eye patch covering his right eye he was nothing but flesh. Again though, this didn’t make him any less dangerous.
‘Is it really morning?’ He asked, seeming a little surprised. ‘Hmm. Must’ve lost count after all these months.’
‘You’ve been here for six months, two weeks and four days now, Slade.’ Erma said. ‘Does that help?’
The mercenary frowned and did a few quick calculations in his head. ‘I’ll get there.’ He decided.
‘So, Slade.’ Erma said, deciding to crack on with business. ‘Last week when we met, we discussed your son, Joseph.’ That had been a very interesting discussion. Erma was starting to realize that the man’s history was a complex one, his life was like it had been written as a sitcom! A particularly violent, unfunny sitcom. ‘I was wondering if we could carry on from there?’
‘Actually.’ Slade’s smile faded. He leaned back as far as his cuffs would allow. ‘I was wondering if I could pick the conversation topic today.’
‘I…’ Erma frowned. She looked at the man with surprise in her eyes, and she closed the notebook sitting in front of her. ‘What would you like to talk about, Slade?’
‘It gets very boring in my cell, Erma.’ Slade said, his voice sounding bored as he said it. ‘Sometimes I don’t even notice when the days pass by, there’s no sunlight. I get that you find me very interesting, but rather than me telling you stuff that I already know, could I ask you a question that I don’t know the answer to?’
Erma’s frown didn’t fade. ‘I’m not allowed to tell you about current ev-‘She began to say.
‘I don’t care about that. This is a personal question.’
Slade watched as Erma pondered the situation for a couple seconds, she bit into her lip and her eyes remained fixed on the mercenary’s one good eye.
‘Go ahead.’ She finally said, a bit of doubt creeping into her tone.
Slade shifted towards her in his seat.
‘Am I a good person?’ He asked her.
At first, Erma thought he was joking. ‘I… don’t think you get put in this place if you’re a good person, Slade.’
‘No. You get put in this place if you’re dangerous.’ He said. ‘And I know I’m dangerous. You can just look at how many people I’ve killed and figure that out.’
‘You’ve killed innocent people too.’ Erma said. Her tone remained neutral. She wasn’t judging Slade for his actions, merely stating facts. ‘You effectively helped destroy Bludhaven several years ago.’ She paused briefly to regard her notes.
‘Yeah. But that was war.’ Slade said. ‘It was my side versus THEIR side.’ He was referring to the Justice League and their superhero community when he said that. ‘Is a War General evil because of the actions he takes to win? Is General Eisenhower evil because of the lives he took?’
‘If I remember you also killed that superhero, Phantom Girl… Phantom Lady!’ Erma corrected herself. ‘And more recently you helped murder the Atom. Or the new Atom at least.’ Again, her tone was completely neutral. She didn’t get paid to judge, only listen.
‘They were enemy soldiers.’ Slade said, voice low. ‘They know the rules when they put on their costumes, it comes with the job. But I killed them quickly. A quicker death than what anyone else in my profession would have given ‘em.’
‘They were still human beings, Slade. Both young people trying to do a bit of good in the world.’
The mercenary didn’t respond to this. He simply lowered his head and stared at the table.
‘What do you think?’ Erma asked after an awkward moment had passed. ‘I think that’s the only real opinion that you care about.’
‘I remember the last time I fought Batman.’ He said, almost speaking to himself. Erma nodded in understanding. It had been just after the destruction of Bludhaven, during some universal crisis that she had never really bothered to try and understand. There had been a massive battle between Good and Evil in the city of Metropolis, the world’s greatest superheroes against its foulest supervillains and in the very thick of it had been Slade and Batman. ‘Do you know what he said to me?’ He didn’t wait for her to answer. ‘That ba$tard said that I’ve abandoned my morals.’ He chuckled at that. ‘Batman said that… and I think he was right.’
The two sat there quietly, Erma letting Slade consider what he had said. The mercenary’s eye stared straight into the table as if it weren’t there, his mind focused on other issues. Just as Erma was about to speak, to tell Slade that this was a very important development for his mental health, something happened. The white light illuminating the room began to flicker, briefly casting the room in darkness.
Both Erma and Slade looked at the tiny light bulb hovering above them, both equally surprised by what was happening. Slade had been here for six months; Erma had been there for three but neither of them had seen anything remotely similar happen here. The light flickered a few more times before fading out entirely turning the entire room black.
Slade looked at Erma. ‘Something’s happening.’ He said quickly. She opened her mouth to speak but he shushed her, listening intently for anything that could clear up what was happening. A moment after the lights had gone out, the facility’s emergency power kicked with red lights from the wall bathing the place in an eerie glow.
‘What… what’s going on?’ Erma asked, she sounded nervous.
Slade’s head twitched slightly. He seemed to be trying to angle his ears towards different parts of the room in order to pick up what was happening.
‘That was a power cut.’ He said, voice deadly serious. ‘A quick one, but it happened.’
Erma’s jaw dropped. A power cut was quite possibly the worst thing that could have happened at Devil’s Peak. Already she felt she could feel the chill from the winds outside, already she could feel herself beginning to panic. Then she realized that the facility beginning to freeze wasn’t the only problem.
‘Did… did any supervillains get out?’ She asked. Slade looked at her, his face grim.
‘I can hear screaming.’ He answered, the red lights from the walls making him look positively demonic. Slowly he began to stand up from his chair, he tugged slightly on the cuffs that were binding his wrists and the clunky metal devices clattered to the ground, uselessly.
Slade seemed surprised by his newfound freedom. He looked at his newly freed wrists and seemed almost empowered, for a moment it seemed like he’d forgotten that Erma was even there… until he turned to her.
‘This place is turning into a nightmare.’ He said. ‘I’m gonna get you out of here.’
Obviously, Erma accepted this offer immediately.